We had an awesome question come in during our SEO reseller webinar last night that I thought I would blog about today. Here is the question: If a ranking is moving up nicely on an SEO reseller program, but the term has not generated any traffic, should I remove it from the target keyword list? Wow - A very complex question. And a good one. It gets right to the heart of a high quality SEO campaign. We know many SEO resellers struggle with this because we have had the same scenario with our direct clients. So what do you do? How do you manage this client? What is the right move?
Do you make drastic changes to the SEO campaign? Should the keyword targets be reconsidered? Or is the client just being impatient? Let's dive into this using a real-life use-case and the HubShout SEO reseller dashboard to explore the issue. On the left is a screen shot showing a scenario similar to the one asked in our SEO reseller webinar: Right off the bat we can see a few things here in the HubShout dashboard. Over the life of the campaign, we've generated some traffic (note the blue bars), but not recently. In fact, the campaign started really strong with month-over-month organic traffic jumping upward. But after that initial spike, things really went south. The organic visits fell drastically. In the last month or so there has been a slight recovery of organic web hits to the target URL, but it is not nearly as exciting as the first 5 months were.
The next thing to check is the panel on the lower right of the HubShout portal. It shows the 30 day traffic by keyword. Of course, this confirms the sad state of affairs reported by the top SEO traffic trend graph. With organic hits down so much it is no surprise that our top keywords are not producing. But oddly, the MozRank and Domain Authority seem healthy. So what's going on here? And more importantly, what do we do / tell the client? Again - We get calls like this one every day from members of our SEO reseller community. Many people don't understand search engine optimization and it is easy for them to bring their Pay-Per-Click or Public Relations mind-set to the table. And they are usually eager for better news. My answer in almost all cases is to continue to dive into the data. There is usually a story in the SEO data and the more time you spend analyzing, the stronger your prescription for corrective action. Let's continue our analysis. Next we look at backlink trends
The picture below is fascinating. This domain has actually been losing backlinks over the last 30 days. But for the 3 months before that, it was a wild ride.
I don't particularly like a backlink graph like this as I favor smoother backlink growth patterns. You can read my thoughts on how temporal consistency hurt J C Penney. You should also read SEOMoz's thoughts on the importance of consistency and perseverance in link building. But spikes happen. And overall, I wouldn't be that concerned about this SEO backlink graph if it wasn't for the recent dip. I can envision how spikes in backlinks occur naturally and then fade away as a big story about your business is picked up by a popular website and then drifts down into oblivion. But notice how a main trend line had been establishing itself if you remove the big spike in backlinks? It looks great until this last 30 days. Bad news.
The last data I will highlight in our in-depth SEO use-case today is on individual rankings. It is important to look not just at where the rankings are today, but the trend on important rankings. Taken individually, any fluctuation may just be search engine jitter. I like to think of that in the same way astronomers talk about "space noise." But when you see a number of important keyword phrases all exhibiting the same movement, you have trouble. This is confirmatory evidence in our use-case that the entire SEO picture is headed south. Notice in the picture on the left how many of the individual terms are showing a sinking SERP. I love the thumbnails in the HubShout SEO dashboard for this type of analysis. You can see a TON of data at one glance. And in this case, it's all bad news. I've highlighted 5 different keywords that are now losing search engine rankings. What do you do? How to handle this situation depends deeply on many factors specific to the client / SEO reseller relationship. As the primary Account Manager, you should have a sense for how patient this client will be. Some clients have an understanding of the time involved in achieving top SEO rankings. Others don't. For those that don't the scenario shared above will likely be fatal to the relationship unless you make drastic changes. That may include moving them into Pay-Per-Click (PPC) for a little while so they at least see some traffic to their website. If the client has a long-term view, there is clearly SEO work to be done. First off, the sagging backlink count needs to be corrected. Analysis should be done to determine if these keywords are, indeed, the right targets. Use this as an opportunity to strengthen communication with your client. Schedule working meetings to review data together and push hard on education. That process may end up saving your client, building your relationship, and a tighter / more effective SEO campaign. And as always, bring strong data to the table. The more you can show tangible, defensible data (like what we have in our SEO reseller dashboard) the more credibility you will have.
UPDATE TO THIS POST: On 1/19/2016, we switched from Moz to A h r e f s for domain metrics in the dashboard. Please see our Moz to A h r e f s system update post.